Gal: The Complete Works For Solo Piano / Mccawley

Release Date: 12/27/2005
Label: Avie
Catalog Number: AV2064
Composer: Hans Gál
Performer: Leon McCawley
Number of Discs: 3

Physical Format:

CD
Low Stock
$35.99
Notes and Editorial Reviews




I was sent the final pressing of this set, along with the cover story and review Peter Rabinowitz wrote for Fanfare 29:4. Broadly speaking, I agree with Rabinowitz?s opinions on Borac, though I?ve not heard her recording of the Suites. ?Sensitivity and timbral imagination? is an excellent way to characterize her refinement of touch in everything on both discs of this set. It is also extremely poised playing that she offers, however; and while there are some pianists whose beauty and variety of tone is unfortunately partnered by an inchoate musical conception, that?s not the case here. Borac always seems to have in mind a clear goal for every phrase, and exactly the means to achieve it. Those differences that I have with her playing on this release have far less to do with technique and basic musical understanding than interpretative choices.


You might think this a given, but Dana Ciocarlie in her Enescu selections on a recent disc of Romanian piano music (L?Empreinte Digitale ED 13122) found it nearly impossible to sustain a simple rhythmic pulse for any length of time. This had a seriously deleterious effect on her performances of the Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 and the First Piano Sonata, despite an otherwise attractively inflected reading. Borac is less given to sharp accenting. Her performance of that sonata?s Scherzo correctly emphasizes its fleetness, but she plays down its harmonic spikiness and rhythmic propulsion in a way I find dampens its individuality. There, and in the work?s first movement, I continue to prefer Maria Fotino, who combines Borac?s energy with Ciocarlie?s angularity and a bold spontaneity entirely her own. But in the third movement?an andante molto espressivo remarkable for its somnambulistic breadth?Borac is most persuasive. Slower and more detailed than the other versions, hers offers a greater range of well-articulated shadings. Perhaps it?s something in her technique that responds especially well to situations of musical near-stasis, where momentum ceases to matter and the proper weighting of each phrase becomes paramount; but this is the kind of movement that brings out the best in Borac. It is one of my favorite things from a performance perspective on the release, fully capable of standing alongside the lengthy, sometimes Scriabinesque Nocturne in its visionary quietude and structural insight.


Or is there a temperamental tendency at work towards the more subdued side of the spectrum, where the pianist can best display her broad but impeccably disciplined range of color? Possibly so, for the outer, extroverted sections of the early Scherzo lack the incisiveness and drive that Aurora Ienei finds. Ienei also discovers a puckish joyousness in the Prelude from Enescu?s Prelude and Fugue?a heady mix of Bach infused with Fauré?and a sweeping majesty in the work?s Fugue. Both are played much faster and with a greater range of volume than Borac, who is serenely smiling from the start, with carefully modulated dynamics throughout. But after repeated hearings I find myself drawn more to the latter, in a subtle performance that seems to flow along inevitably of its own volition, buoyed by a natural rhythmic pulse without human interference. That?s an absolute illusion, of course, but it was a skill Dinu Lipatti developed over time, and it appears Borac may have done so, as well.


The Third Piano Sonata does yield to Lipatti in insight if not technique, but the Pièce sur le nom de Fauré is handled with delicacy and restraint. It is not an easy work to play well, combining aspects of the dedicatee?s late harmonic language with Enescu?s own tendency towards maximum compression: even when there?s apparently little going on, there?s a lot happening.


The engineering is good, realistic and close, stereo, with a bit of dullness to the midrange at lower volume levels. The ambience is slightly dry, but this has its good side in that it doesn?t flatter the soloist: you hear exactly what is being played, barring edits. In SACD mode the sound blooms, creating a richer palette and more presence. The attractive liner notes are in two parts: a lengthier essay on Enescu and the enclosed works, followed by a brief but insightful musical analysis of the First Sonata?s finale, by Borac.


Finally, a word of thanks to Avie, John Barnes (co-producer with Borac), and, of course, Luiza Borac, herself. We haven?t had anywhere near this quantity of Enescu for piano in quite some time, if allowances are made for deleted recordings. It?s been long overdue, and bespeaks a love for this music, and a recognition of its uniformly high quality. Despite my mild reservations expressed above, I can wholeheartedly recommend this album.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
1. Sonata for Piano, Op. 28 by Hans Gál
Performer: Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1927 ;
2. Suite for Piano, Op. 24 by Hans Gál
Performer: Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1922 ;
3. Sonatinas (2) for Piano, Op. 58 by Hans Gál
Performer: Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
4. Sketches (3) for Piano, Op. 7 by Hans Gál
Performer: Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
5. Small Pieces (3) for Piano, Op. 64 by Hans Gál
Performer: Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1933 ;
6. Preludes (3) for Piano, Op. 65 by Hans Gál
Performer: Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1944 ;
7. Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 83 by Hans Gál
Performer: Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1960 ; Scotland
8. Fugues (24) for Piano, Op. 108 by Hans Gál
Performer: Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1980 ;
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